Page last updated at 22:10 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 23:10 UK

Waxwork Hitler beheaded in Berlin

Hitler waxwork at Madame Tussauds in Berlin
A desk was supposed to keep people away from the waxwork

A man has been arrested after tearing the head off a wax figure of Adolf Hitler at a newly opened branch of Madame Tussauds in Berlin.

The 41-year-old man was held after attacking the waxwork, only hours after the attraction opened on Saturday.

The inclusion of Hitler in the exhibition has aroused controversy in a country where Nazi symbols are banned.

But the exhibition's organisers said they could hardly depict German history without portraying Hitler.

They said the waxwork depicted Hitler in the hours before his suicide, a defeated figure slumped in his bunker as the Red Army reached Berlin.

The Fuhrer was positioned behind a table, which was supposed to prevent visitors posing with the statue - or damaging it.

'Showing reality'

Police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said a security guard had been shoved aside by the attacker.

Visitors to Madame Tussauds give their reaction to the attack

"He tried to prevent the man from acting but failed. The suspect, from the Kreuzberg district, pushed the man aside and lunged at the Adolf Hitler figure and ripped the head off."

Another visitor, who was not named, said the man went straight to the Hitler figure and stepped behind the desk.

"I heard a rumbling and then he tore the figure down off the chair. The security was immediately there and tried to control him but it wasn't easy, he defended himself. Additional security staff took him away then and I had to leave the place," he said.

The attacker was only the second visitor to enter the exhibition, according to one report.

The decision to include a figure of Hitler has been controversial from the start.

Erasing him from history is not going to bring the perished ones back
Stephen Kramer
Central Council of Jews in Germany

Natalie Ruoss, of Madame Tussauds, said: "We did surveys while we were planning the exhibition on the street with Berliners and with tourists, and the result was quite clear that Hitler is one of the figures that they want to see.

"Seeing as we are portraying the history of Germany we could hardly have left him out... we want to show the reality."

Despite some criticism in the media, Stephen Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he did not object to Hitler being shown, as long as it was done properly.

"Hitler should not become a tourist attraction but if this exhibition helps to some extent normalise the way of dealing with Hitler, as a kind of a demystification, let's try it," Mr Kramer told the AFP news agency.

"Erasing him from history is not going to bring the perished ones back, it's not going to heal the damage that he did, the crimes that he did. That would be counter-productive," he said.

The waxwork museum also includes other German historical figures like Otto von Bismarck, Karl Marx, Beethoven, Bach and Einstein.

Foreigners featured include Winston Churchill, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tom Cruise.

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